Bangkok Post Editor Assails CJR Piece

Thai paper wants a retraction and apology, or full reprint of its statement.

On Wednesday, the Columbia Journalism Review published an article by Beijing-based freelance journalist Justin Heifeitz. The piece, titled “Pork, Bullets, and the Dismal State of Journalism in Thailand,” details Heifetz’s struggles at the paper in 2013-14, which included the threat of a defamation lawsuit from a Navy rear admiral. From the CJR piece:

The Sunday section of the Bangkok Post — the most generous section with investigative news and analysis — is allowed by upper management to take on one foreigner as a staff reporter at a time. I was this reporter.

Being the only non-national reporter in a newsroom like the Post’s is terrifying. It creates friction with Western copy editors who want bylines and invites animosity from Thai reporters covering the same scoops for a fraction of the salary. And upper management expects you to catch controversial stories, just like foreign correspondents for wires or big international media organizations. But you’re without any legal protection because you’re illegal. You’re disposable, expendable, a one-man team, and you’ll never forget it.

Today, the editor of the Bangkok Post is taking issue with the April 15 CJR feature. From Pichai Chuensuksawadi’s note:

What amazes us is that the editors of the CJR did not make any effort to contact us to verify this story. To obtain comment, they instead relied solely on the writer, who was going to write a story against this newspaper.

If this is the standard to which the CJR adheres, then I believe the CJR’s Board of Overseers needs to be made aware of the dismal state of how the CJR operates. The CJR should retract this story and issue an official apology to the Bangkok Post, Mr Heifetz’s former colleagues at the newspaper and indeed, to the Thai media, many of whom do in fact take considerable risk in the performance of their professional duties.

Failing that the CJR should publish our response unedited and not as suggested by the CJR: “We’d like to get to the bottom of this, and if a correction or clarification is needed, we’re glad to get Justin to write one. Please let me know about the fact issues in writing as soon as you can.”

In the comments and elsewhere, many are urging the Post to specifically detail what the paper thinks the CJR article got wrong. Read the full Heifetz feature here.